On This Date: 5 Anniversaries for April 20 April 20, 2016Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Science, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Apollo, Cancer, Chemistry, Discovery Departure, Museums & Archives, Physics, Radioactivity, Space Shuttle
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Looking for something to ponder or celebration today, April 20? Here you go!
1862: Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard prove that spontaneous generation doesn’t happen. If you’re still hoping that something can come from nothing, you’re more than 150 years behind the times.
1902: Pierre and Marie Curie radium chloride, the first compound of radium to be isolated in a pure state. In 2013, the FDA approved radium chloride as a treatment for prostate cancer. We’ve written about the Curies before; check out more info about Pasteur and Curie HERE.
1916: One hundred years ago on this date, the Chicago Cubs played their first game in what has become Wrigley Field on this date. While this anniversary is beside the usual topics of Lofty Ambitions, we’re lifelong Cubs fans, and we like an excuse for a celebration.
1937: George Takei was born in Los Angeles. He later played Sulu in the television show Star Trek and subsequent films. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter and not following George Takei, you’re missing out.
Bonus: In April 2012, we had followed the orbiter Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the National Air and Space Museum‘s Udvar-Hazy facility. April 20th was that oribter’s first full day as a museum artifact.
One Big Thing: Generation Space! March 28, 2016Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Apollo, Books, Science Writing, Space Shuttle
We’re thrilled to announce that Stillhouse Press will publish Generation Space: A Love Story in February 2017.
We’ll have postcards and bookmarks available at the AWP Bookfair this week, both at the Stillhouse Press booth (#708) and the Chapman University & Tabula Poetica booth (#701).
Though we didn’t realize it at the time, this book began in the fall of 2010, when we started actively following the end of the space shuttle program and writing Lofty Ambitions blog. Really, though, Generation Space began when we were toddlers in Illinois watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing on television. In 1986, we were each in college when Challenger broke apart, a definitive moment for young adults and children across the nation. In 2008, we moved to Southern California to reorient their lives together and, as a serendipitous result, set out on the adventure that Lofty Ambitions blog has chronicled.
Generation Space is our love story, in part, and also a love story about the Space Age and the long generation that grew up in the shadow of Shuttle. Our book grapples with and celebrates who we are, how far we’ve gone, and what the future might hold.
For a short essay about Anna’s love story with Shuttle, check out “The Composed Soul” in Barrelhouse’s Weird Love feature.
Note: The mosaic’d image of us was made with Loft Ambitions and NASA photos run through AndreaMosaic software; in this way, we are composed of the Space Age we represent. The background photo of the STS-135 launch is from NASA, furthering the intersection. The postcard design was completed by the Ideation Lab at Chapman University.
Endeavour Mission 26: ET Comes Home! March 3, 2016Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Museums & Archives, Space Shuttle
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California Science Center Foundation Announces
Route for External Tank’s Journey
Los Angeles – Today the California Science Center Foundation announced the route for “Mission 26: ET Comes Home,” the journey of the external tank (ET-94). It will travel from the Michoud Assembly Facility through the Panama Canal by barge to Los Angeles, then on through city streets, pulled by a truck on dollies, to its final destination near the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Pavilion. The entire journey will take six to eight weeks. ET-94 is expected to arrive around May 21, 2016.
Larger and longer than Endeavour, the ET was the Orbiter’s massive “gas tank” and contained the propellants used by the Space Shuttle Main Engines (though ET-94 is empty). The tank, the only major, non-reusable part of the space shuttle, is neither as wide as Endeavour (32 feet versus 78 feet) nor as high (35 feet versus 56 feet). Because of this, fewer utilities will be impacted and no trees will be removed along ET’s route from the coast to Exposition Park, though some light trimming may be necessary. The path it will take through the streets was planned with input from city officials, utilities and community groups.
The route is as follows –
Marina Del Rey parking lot to Fiji Way
Fiji Way to Lincoln (PCH)
Lincoln to Mindanao Way
Mindanao Way to CA-90
CA-90 to Culver Blvd
Culver Blvd. to Lincoln via transition ramp
Lincoln to Loyola Blvd
?Loyola Blvd. to Westchester Pkwy
Westchester Parkway turns into Arbor Vitae St. at Airport Blvd; Arbor Vitae St. to La Brea Ave
La Brea Ave. to Manchester Blvd
Manchester Blvd. to Vermont Ave
Vermont Ave. to Martin Luther King Blvd.?
Martin Luther King Blvd. to Exposition Park.
The journey through the streets to the Science Center is expected to take 13-18 hours.
“With the transfer of ET-94 from NASA, we will have the ability to preserve and display an entire stack of flight hardware, making the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center an even more compelling educational experience. With the same outpouring of community support we saw with the arrival of Endeavour, we look forward to celebrating this gift from NASA as it journeys from the coast through city streets to the California Science Center,” notes California Science Center President Jeffrey N. Rudolph.
“We are honored that NASA has entrusted the California Science Center and the City of Los Angeles with this incredible piece of history,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “As the world’s last surviving flight-qualified space shuttle external tank journeys from the coast to its final home, it will inspire a new generation of Angelenos — who can dream the kind of dreams that make it possible for us to continue leading the world in innovation.”
Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts notes that “Inglewood is pleased to share another historic moment with the California Science Center in the transport of ET-94. Nearly 1.5 million people came out to cheer Endeavour years ago bringing joy to everyone, young and old. The event celebrated our sense of wonderment and community pride. Inglewood once again welcomes the ET to its home at the Science Center”
Mrs. Lynda Oschin, Chairperson and Secretary of the Mr. and Mrs. Oschin Family Foundation, adds “I’m so excited about this new addition to the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center and look forward to joining the enthusiastic crowds as it makes it’s way to the California Science Center.”
The donation of this never-used artifact from NASA is significant, and allows the Science Center to fulfill its vision of building a full stack for Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final display in the launch position in the future Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. This will mark the only time an ET has traveled through urban streets and will evoke memories of when Endeavour traveled 12-miles from the Los Angeles International Airport to the Science Center and was cheered on by a crowd of 1.5 million in 2012.
Ways the Public Can Support Mission 26: ET Comes Home
To follow ET-94’s journey from the Michoud Assembly Facility to the California Science Center, use the hashtag #ETComesHome.
Volunteer opportunities to help move ET-94 to the California Science Center will be available. Contact the California Science Center volunteer office at (213) 744-2124 or at VolunteerDept@cscmail.org for more information.
The California Science Center Foundation welcomes the public’s support of the EndeavourLA Campaign to create the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. Opportunities include sponsoring one of Endeavour’s thermal tiles with a gift of $1,000 and monthly payment options are available. For more information or to make a donation online, please visit EndeavourLA.org. ET-94 will also be the star attraction at the Science Center’s 18th Annual Discovery Ball on Friday, May 20, 2016 in Marina del Rey. Tables for our first-ever, off-site gala start at $10,000 (Ten people) or $2,500 for a pair of tickets. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
About the California Science Center
California Science Center is located at 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles. Open daily from 10am to 5 pm, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission to the exhibits is free. Timed tickets are required for the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibition and may be obtained online for $2. IMAX Theater tickets range from $5.00 to $8.25. Both the Science Center and IMAX Theater are wheelchair accessible. Visitors can enter the parking lot at 39th/Exposition Park Drive and Figueroa Street. Parking is $12/car. For general information, phone (323) SCIENCE or visitwww.californiasciencecenter.org.
Five Aviation and Space Anniversaries February 17, 2016Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Aviation, Space Exploration.
Tags: Apollo, Armstrong/Dryden Flight Research Center, Mars, Space Shuttle, Wright Brothers
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Last week, Doug spent a day at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) attending a #NASASocial event dubbed #StateOfNASA. Read last week’s post HERE.
#1. NACA’s 100th (last year)
NASA’s predecessor organization was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NACA was founded on March 3rd, 1915, a little more than eleven years after the Wright brothers first took to the skies.
#2. NASA Langley’s 100th (next year)
Langley Research Center (LaRC) was established in 1917 by NACA. The facility is named for the Wright brothers’ competitor, aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley. LaRC is famous for the contributions to aerospace engineering made by its more than forty wind tunnels.
#3. NASA Glenn’s 75th (this year)
Founded as the Aircraft Engine Research Center in Cleveland in 1941, NASA’s Glenn Research Center will celebrate its Diamond Anniversary in 2016. Until 1999, the facility was known as Lewis Research Center when it was renamed for NASA astronaut and US senator John Glenn. Its full name is NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, which simply flows off the lips.
#4. 5th Anniversary of President Obama’s National Space Plan (this year)
It’s been a little more than five years since America shifted its next destination in space from a plan for returning to the Moon to a Mars voyage. In a speech at Kennedy Space Center delivered on April 15, 2010, President Obama articulated a program that would have NASA astronauts visit an asteroid in 2025 and see humans venture to Mars in the mid-2030s.
#5. 35th Anniversary of STS-1 (this year)
Unfortunately, Administrator Bolden only mentioned four specific anniversaries in his presentation. Recently, our own campus celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident by adding the papers of Morton-Thiokol engineer Allan McDonald to the collections of the Leatherby Libraries where Doug works.
Just a few weeks from now is the 35th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight, STS-1. On April 12, 1981, astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen were onboard as the first Shuttle mission headed into low-Earth orbit. This date also coincides, of course, with anniversary of the first human mission into space. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s Vostok-1 roared into space 55 years ago in 1961.
5 Space Shuttles September 9, 2015Posted by Lofty Ambitions in 5 Things, Space Exploration.
Tags: Space Shuttle
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This week officially launches our series of 5. Last week, we outlined our plan.
5 SPACE SHUTTLES
Columbia was the Space Shuttle program’s first functional orbiter. It launched on April 12, 1981, and flew for 22 years and 27 missions. This first shuttle was thousands of pounds heavier than the others. It flew a lot of science-oriented missions, and its last completed mission was to service the Hubble Space Telescope. On February 1, 2003, Columbia broke apart on re-entry. You can read one of our posts that commemorates that accident, along with the Apollo 1 and Challenger accidents, HERE.
First launched in 1984, Discovery is the first fully functional space shuttle we saw in person and up close. This orbiter can now be seen at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. In this photo, Anna helps with mating process in preparation for Discovery to fly from Florida to DC after its final orbital mission.
First launched in 1985, Atlantis concluded the Space Shuttle program with its final flight in 2011. We were there to see this shuttle on the launchpad and see the program’s final launch. This shuttle can now be viewed in person at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, where we saw it installed in 2012.
We think of Endeavour as our shuttle, for it was the first orbiter we saw launch in person, and we followed its journey to our backyard at the California Science Center in 2012. Endeavour was the only replacement shuttle and the last shuttle to be built; it was commissioned after the Challenger accident and made from spare parts. It flew 25 missions between 1992 and 2011.
Enterprise was never designed to go to space, but we give it a lot of credit as a test vehicle. And who doesn’t like a space vehicle that gets (re)named by Star Trek fans? Anna saw this (non)orbiter when Udvar-Hazy first opened, and it’s now on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Complex in New York.
On the Anniversary of the Last Shuttle Launch July 8, 2015Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Books, Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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On July 8, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Kennedy Space Center. And we were there. No U.S. manned spaceflight has occurred since.
If you’d like to see our photos from launch day, click HERE. Yes, we included photos of John Oliver and Anderson Cooper, too.
One of the people we met while we were following the end of the shuttle program was Margaret Lazarus Dean. She, too, was there for the last launch and for Atlantis’s museum installation. In her new book, Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight, she writes, “Of all the orbiters, Atlantis was the one I could never quite get a handle on, the one that never really developed a personality for me, and so maybe it’s fitting that it should be the last, that it should be the one I should have to say good-bye to.”
We feel similarly about Atlantis, the newest and somehow least distinct shuttle. We cannot separate our attachment to Challenger and Columbia from the fatal accidents, those shuttles going to pieces. Discovery was the first shuttle we saw up-close and personal; the trip to see Discovery’s not-launch in 2010 changed our lives. Endeavour was our shuttle, the one we’d seen land in California only months after we’d moved there in 2008 and the one we followed most closely through not-launch, launch, and across the country and through Los Angeles streets to the California Science Center. Not being as attached to Atlantis may well have made that last launch easier for us and more easily thought of as emblematic of the shuttle program.
Waiting in the press briefing room after that last launch, Anna leaned over to Doug and whispered that she would start clapping when NASA’s launch managers walked in. She didn’t care that we were supposed to be objective journalists. We wanted the mainstream press, who’d shown up for the first time that morning, to see those of us who followed the end of the shuttle and the even smaller group who covered launches for years display a deep understanding of the story. We wanted the managers to know that those of us who weren’t insiders understood that the space program mattered and that individuals made it happen. We knew that, if we started clapping, it would catch on. This press core had just witnessed an event that moved them physically and emotionally. All they needed was a nudge. So when we started the applause, it rightly felt as if everyone had been overwhelmed with awe and gratitude at once. A standing ovation seemed an inevitable, spontaneous response to the moment.
Awe comes from words meaning terror, dread, grief, and depression. The current sense of awe connects the concept with the divine, but the word has not shed the shadow of those early meanings nor that depth of feeling. That the shuttle could inspire awe in the two of us and, undoubtedly, in anyone who witnessed a launch in person is a testament to ambition and desire, even when it falls short. We should be overwhelmed with awe and gratitude more often. These occasions are rare indeed.
Anniversary of First American Spacewalk and more June 3, 2015Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Apollo, Space Shuttle
Fifty years ago on this date, two astronauts crawled into a Gemini spacecraft atop a Titan rocket and were shot into space. Over four days, Jim McDivitt and Ed White circled Earth 66 times. That first day, White opened the hatch and left the spacecraft.
This first spacewalk lasted about 20 minutes. White, connected to the capsule by a tether, wanted to stay out in that great expanse a lot longer. He exclaimed, “This is fun!” He didn’t seem to care that communications with the ground might be compromised as they switched tracking stations, nor that they were heading into darkness of night on the other side of the solar terminator. Ed White called his return to Gemini IV “the saddest moment of my life.”
One year later, on June 3, 1966, two different astronauts crawled into a Gemini spacecraft atop a Titan rocket and were shot into space. Over three days, Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan circled Earth 47 times. On June 5, Cernan left the spacecraft for two hours.
All in all, Gemini IX was a meager success. The planned rendezvous with the Agena, an unmanned target practice spacecraft, didn’t happen because of a problem with the Agena that left its nose cone pieces hanging open, still attached. Then, Cernan struggled through his spacewalk, with no hand or foot folds to help him make his way to the maneuvering system he had to put on. All his movements were exhausting, his heart rate soared to 180 beats per minute, and he started sweating profusely, which fogged his visor, which he couldn’t wipe off to see. Stafford called a halt to the spacewalk, and NASA started rethinking the spacesuit for the Apollo program.
The original crew for Gemini IX had been Elliot See and Charles Bassett, but they had died that February when their T-38 crashed on approach to St. Louis to take a look at their spacecraft in person. McDivitt and Cernan moved from backup to prime crew.
Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin became the new backup crew for Gemini IX, which also moved them to the prime crew position on Gemini XII. This switch likely changed Aldrin’s life. While Cernan had struggled physically as a spacewalker on Gemini IX, Aldrin used underwater training to prepare for his spacewalks. Aldrin completed three spacewalks on Gemini XII in November 1966, two of which lasted more than two hours. Only then was NASA convinced that extravehicular activity was safe and doable. The crew rotation and this EVA success set Aldrin up to be on Apollo 11 and to walk on the Moon.
This rotation also put Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan on the Apollo 10 crew, along with John Young. All three had flown before, and all three would fly to space again after Apollo 10.
Roughly 46 years ago, at the end of May 1969, three men crawled into an Apollo spacecraft atop at Saturn V rocket and were shot into space. Apollo 10 went all the way to the Moon without actually landing on its surface. The Lunar Module came within 16 kilometers of the surface but wasn’t given enough fuel to land and ascend back to the Command Module, probably because NASA feared Stafford and Cernan would try such a move. The success of Apollo 10 set up the Apollo 11 mission to land on the Moon in July 1969.
History is made in the moment. As we’ve written before (Mark & Scott Kelly HERE, Shuttle Firsts HERE), timing and sequence matter in space exploration history. Sequences of small decisions accumulate to give us the whole. Certainly, the deaths of Bassett and See altered the trajectory of both the Gemini and Apollo programs in small ways. But it isn’t always tragic events that have effects. Mike Collins’s back problems likely put him in the Command Module pilot’s seat as opposed to another astronaut. In the larger scheme of things, we’ve also written about how all the Apollo astronauts, our Moon men, were born into a thin slice of history. Collins, Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong were all born in the same year, 1930.
The Gemini IV spacecraft is on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The Gemini IX spacecraft is on display at Kennedy Space Center. The Apollo 10 Command Module is at the Science Museum in London.
Happy First Flight, Endeavour! May 6, 2015Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: I Remember CA, Museums & Archives, Space Shuttle
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We’ve come to think of Endeavour as “our” shuttle. We went to Edwards Air Force Base to see it land in 2008, we watched its last launch from Kennedy Space Center in 2011, and we saw it make its cross-country trip back home to California, where it is now displayed at the California Science Center. We spent time with Endeavour up close and personal after its last flight, when it was being decommissioned and we were at KSC to see Atlantis’s last launch. We know Endeavour best, and tomorrow is its anniversary of first flight.
On May 7, 1992, the space shuttle Endeavour launched for the first time. At the end of this post, we’ve included a video of the launch and landing from this first flight. STS-49 was commanded by Daniel C. Brandenstein and carried six other crew members on this mission to rescue Intelsat 603 and send it into its intended orbit.
We talked with one of those astronauts, Kathryn Thornton, in 2010. After earning a PhD in physics, she joined NASA when we were in college. Thornton flew on the space shuttle four times, and Endeavour’s first was her second spaceflight. During STS-49, she was one of four spacewalkers. Of course, in addition to the satellite tasks, the crew tested Endeavour out to make sure everything was in tip-top shape for the long haul of its service.
You can see our interview with Kathy Thornton HERE.
Endeavour was the space shuttle built to replace Challenger, after the demise of that orbiter during launch in 1986. This new shuttle, then, was made from leftover parts from the process of making earlier shuttles. The British spelling was in honor of the sailing ship Captain James Cook used to track the path of Venus and was also used for the Command Module on Apollo 15. The name was chosen through a K-12 essay contest in which Endeavour was a favorite and met the NASA requirement of relatively easy pronunciation.
That first Endeavour mission was also the first shuttle mission with an EVA—a spacewalk—that included three astronauts. The Intelsat rescue was more difficult than anticipated, and the mission was the first to require three rendezvous with another orbiting spacecraft. The landing was the first during which the shuttle used a drag chute.
Later that year, Endeavour carried Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. The following year, Endeavour flew the first Hubble Space Telescope service mission; Thornton performed two EVAs as part of the Hubble repairs.
To see the series of posts that include our cool launch photos, click HERE.
To see the series of posts about Endeavour’s journey home, click HERE.
RIP Leonard Nimoy March 4, 2015Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Art & Science, Movies & TV, Music, Space Shuttle
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Last Friday, actor Leonard Nimoy died. The New York Times reported, “the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut ‘Star Trek,’ died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.”
As Anna drove around town that morning, KUSC played the Star Trek theme in Nimoy’s honor, for he was a long-time supporter of that classical music station and a musician himself. Long before Peter Jackson brought J. R. R. Tolkein’s hobbits to the screen, Nimoy performed “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” though that didn’t do justice to his talent. He was also a photographer, and The Independent has just pulled together and shared some of his striking work.
Four years ago this month, Lofty Ambitions wrote a happy-birthday post for Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. Read that tribute HERE.
Reportedly, Nimoy’s last tweet was “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”
One of our favorite and nerdiest NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano spoke of Nimoy’s influence, as the character Spock, on space exploration, science, and their generation. And astronauts in space exchanged the Vulcan salute last week.
Rolling Stone gathered numerous tributes. President Obama wrote, “Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek‘s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.”
Zachary Quinto, the new Spock, wrote, “My heart is broken. I love you profoundly my dear friend.”
George Takei remembered Nimoy at MSNBC. Takei called Nimoy “extraordinary” and explains why Nimoy deserves that adjective.
William Shatner kept his commitment to a Red Cross fundraiser in Florida instead of attending the funeral, according to CNN, but had good things to say about Nimoy.
In TIME, Martin Landau remembered Nimoy, writing, “Leonard Nimoy was a mensch! Mensch is a word which in Yiddish means ‘a particularly good person’ with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague.”
As academics ourselves, we appreciate a good commencement speech. In his at Boston University in 2012, at the age of 81, Nimoy said, “I have three words for you. Persistence, persistence…persistence.” We write about that here at Lofty Ambitions, and Anna’s chapter in a forthcoming pedagogy book talks about the importance of perseverance. In that speech, Nimoy quotes President Kennedy, “We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda. It is truth.” That’s sometimes difficult to remember these days, but it’s one of the principles that drives our own writing here and elsewhere. So we end with Nimoy’s wisdom and a video clip that may be familiar and newly meaningful:
You are the curators of your own lives.
You create your own life and work.
#Orion at JPL/Armstrong (Part 3) December 10, 2014Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Armstrong/Dryden Flight Research Center, JPL, Mars, Space Shuttle
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To start with Part 1, click HERE.
The Orion/EFT-1 mission went off without a hitch last Friday. The four-and-a-half hour mission reached a height, or apogee, of 3,600 miles. That’s is as far as a human-rated spacecraft has travelled from the earth in forty-two years.
As a part of the build-up to the Orion/EFT-1 mission, NASA held NASA Social events at multiple sites. Doug was lucky enough to be selected for the event held at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and cosponsored with Armstrong Flight Research Center. In last week’s post, we described the enthusiastic presentation by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Director of Kennedy Space Center Bob Cabana.
The morning session, a streaming broadcast from Kennedy Space Center, continued with panels that addressed a range of Orion-related topics. Mars was much on people’s minds, and many echoed the point that Orion is a stepping-stone to the missions that will send humans to Mars. Dr. Michael Gazarik, who serves as Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, neatly summed up the Mars aspect of the morning’s presentations when he said that we have to learn: “How to get there. How to land there. How to live there.”
Another interesting moment in the morning’s session occurred when Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of Commercial Spaceflight Development, discussed the requirements process for the Commercial Crew Program. McAlister used the space shuttle program as a comparison point. For the shuttle, NASA developed 12,000 requirements. For the Commerical Crew Program, NASA issued 300 requirements. As McAlister put it, with significant but significantly fewer constraints, corporations have encouragement to innovate.
After lunch, the Armstrong/JPL NASA Social continued with more talks and a tour of several locations at JPL.
One of the significant new systems which was developed for Orion is its Launch Abort System. Brent Cobleigh of NASA Armstrong described the testing of the Launch Abort System that took place during the Pad Abort-1 flight test program. That PAD-1 program took place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The 500,000 pounds of thrust generated by the solid rocket motors of the Launch Abort System are powerful enough to accelerate the Orion spacecraft to one hundred miles an hour in 0.42 seconds. The earliest setup for this system produced 16Gs of acceleration, and the production version of the system will accelerate at 12Gs in order to reduce the physiological stresses on the occupants. Cobleigh also pointed out that the United States has never used an abort system during a launch. In fact, only once in the history of human space exploration has a launch abort system been used, in September 1983 for the Russian Soyuz T-10a mission.
The next presentation was by pilot Mark Pestana about the Ikhana aircraft from NASA Armstrong. Ikhana is an unmanned aircraft system that NASA uses primarily for Earth observation and science missions. The name Ikhana comes from the Choctaw language and means intelligence, learning, awareness, and consciousness. NASA received permission from the Choctaw nation to give the aircraft this name. Ikhana was responsible for the stunning video images of Orion’s return through Earth’s atmosphere (see below). During the talk, it was revealed that the Ikhana’s flight would be available on Flightaware. You can still find the track of Ikhana’s flight in support of the Orion return HERE.
Despite the resounding success of the Orion/EFT-1 mission, it will be nearly four years before the next Orion test mission—Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1)—takes place on September 30, 2018. NASA is currently operating its human space exploration program—actually, all of its programs—under significant budget constraints. The first mission to include a human crew won’t occur until 2021, at the earliest. That flight will take place fully 60 years after Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space. It will have been more than 50 years since the crew of Apollo 11 landed on this moon, and, this time, we won’t even be landing there.
All signs are that humanity is going to Mars. But it’s going to take us a while to get there.
To read Part 4, click HERE.